The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Patriotic duty should require eschewing financial opportunity

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Capitol Hill on Dec. 15. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

The Dec. 22 editorial “An unfair advantage” was right to flag House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) defense of stock trading by members of Congress. As an appointee to five previous administrations, I willingly accommodated the ethics lawyers who required that my company forfeit its identity, reducing the value of my share upon leaving, by removing an incoming official’s family name, and that I accept a steep loss in retirement accounts following the market crash of 2000 by shifting from volatile tech-sector funds to broad index funds. Had I been caught taking advantage of my position for private profit, not only would I have been dismissed that day, and appropriately so, the Vietnam combat veterans who had brought me into office would have viewed it as a betrayal of their leadership code, whereby extraordinary effort and sacrifice by all workers are expected and rewarded with recognition symbolized by plaques, medals and occasional modest bonuses. 

When a crisis hits, federal workers will give their all, not for money but out of a patriotic sense of duty and the honor of service. Until the highest officeholders in the legislative and executive branches submit to the same ethics rules as the many thousands of public servants they lead, resentment simmering inside and outside our government will erode its morale, reputation and capacity for greatness.

Lincoln Bloomfield Jr., Alexandria